I am afraid of heights.
I am deathly afraid of heights. Irrationally afraid of heights. Break out in a cold sweat, need to be put on oxygen, may wet my pants afraid of heights. (For the record, I have never actually wet my pants because of this fear, but its not a stretch to think I might one day.) I know this fear. I’m comfortable with this fear. But you know what I don’t get? Why people think its something they can cure me of.
When I was about five years old, my parents shoved me into one of those kids ferris wheels. You know – the ones that are only about 10 feet tall and have the bright colored little cages stuffed with children? Yeah, one of those. They made me ride with my little sister because she was too little to ride by herself.
I screamed the entire ride. Screamed like the little girl that I was. My four year old sister patted my back the whole time saying things like, “Its okay, Katie. Its okay.” You could see the shame in her little four year old face.
And where were my parents? Laughing. That’s right. Laughing. In fact, I distinctly remember the ride operator asking them if he should stop the ride and let me off and my parents saying something to the effect of, “Nah, this is good for her.” My parents weren’t really into parenting books back then.
I’m convinced to this day that it was this Wheel of Death that spawned my fear of heights.
My fear of heights came to a crippling peak the summer I spent in Paris drinking wine and taking dozens of French lovers. (Just kidding – I was 12 and we were on a two week family vacation.) I couldn’t get the courage up to go to the top of the Eiffel Freaking Tower. I waited on my family down at the bottom with the handicapped and the elderly. It was a low moment for me.
When Chris and I were in college, he thought he could help me overcome my fear. I tried explaining that if the Eiffel Freaking Tower couldn’t motivate me, then I was beyond recovery. But he insisted. And being so darn in love, I agreed to ride a ferris wheel with him. And this time it was a big one. Isn’t it stupid the things you’ll do for baby blue eyes?
We get on the ferris wheel and I’m already starting the cold sweat. My hands are clammy. My head is throbbing. And we haven’t even moved yet. Suddenly, the wheel starts moving and we are lifted about half way up so that other riders can get in their Swinging Baskets of Hell. This is when I start screaming. Loudly. As if someone is trying to murder me. Chris starts trying to calm me down, but it just feeds the fear.
“He’s so calm because he knows we’re gonna die,” I thought. And then I screamed louder.
By the time the wheel was really spinning, I was passed the screaming stage and had entered into the clamp-down-on-anything-stable-and-start-praying stage. Unfortunately for Chris, the only thing stable in that Swinging Basket of Hell was his hand. And so I squeezed. And I crushed his hand for the next ten minutes or so. In fact, the only time Chris had the courage to speak to me was when he would occasionally whisper, “Sweetie, my hand.” But I couldn’t be bothered with something as trivial as Chris’ wellbeing. He was the bastard that put me in this situation.
After that, Chris never again doubted my fear of heights. He did manage at one point to get me up to the top of the Empire State Building. But that was only because it was the weekend he proposed and I felt like I should throw him a bone since he had just given me a pretty diamond ring. But I wasn’t happy about it. I thought this might be the time I wet my pants. Thankfully, I didn’t. This is one of the many reasons why Chris and I are married today.
So, knowing all of this, you can image the emotions that overcame both Chris and I when we went to a festival a few weekends ago and looming over all of the bands and food vendors and art tents was another Wheel of Darkness.
I must have been high on funnel cake because I told Chris I thought I was ready to try again. When Chris said not a chance in hell would he ever get on another ferris wheel with me, I started to pitch a slight temper tantrum.
But he distracted me with bright lights and spun sugar and the crisis was overted.
Chris is probably right. If the Eiffel Freaking Tower and his baby blue eyes couldn’t save me all the times before, then I was out of luck. And I’m alright with that. I’ll just eat more funnel cake and candied apples. Everybody wins.